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HARVARD UNIVERSITY & MUSLIM STUDENTS

Muslim traditions stir debate at Harvard University
International Herald Tribune, Friday, March 21, 2008
By Neil MacFarquhar

Mike Ghouse - Article follows my comments;

Most of the conflicts stem from a fear of loss, or the fear that some one is taking advantage of the situation. In this case, a few at Harvard University feel that Muslims students are having privileges like the exclusive time given to Muslim women at gym, or the Adhan, a prayer call. If these other students ask for similar privileges and are denied, they have every right to complaint, otherwise, the fear is baseless.

The Muslim students on the other hand, need to really weigh in the purpose of the Adhan, it was to call the believers to prayer. A hundred years ago when people did not have the watches and could not make to the prayer on time, the Adhan would remind them for prayers, today, that call is symbolic and not a real call any more, as it is one's own responsibility to attend the prayer.

We have to respect other's need for quietness or must be willing to listen to similar calls by other faiths.

The Students must focus on the very basic of Islam - Peace, i.e., removing conflicts and nurturing good will. To be a Muslim is to be a peace maker; one who constantly seeks to mitigate conflicts and nurtures goodwill for co-existence and world peace - God wants his creation to be in peace and harmony, and that is the chief purpose of Islam; peace.

Lasting peace comes when what is good for one is good for the other and vice-versa.

More about Adhan below the article:
http://www.worldmuslimcongress.com/

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Muslim traditions stir debate at Harvard University
International Herald Tribune,
Friday, March 21, 2008
By Neil MacFarquhar

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts: A small controversy over how Harvard practices tolerance has been sparked by two issues relating to Muslim belief - whether the call to prayer should ring out across Harvard Yard and whether women should be granted separate gym hours.

Heated discussions have erupted on dormitory chat rooms, students said, while various opinion articles in the student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, have denounced both practices.

"I think that because Harvard is a secular campus, there is a fear among some students that religious beliefs or practices might be imposed on people who don't want anything to do with them," said Jessa Birdsall, a sophomore who said she thought the university should accommodate the beliefs of all students.

The debate began in early February, when the undergraduate college restricted one of the three largest gyms on its main campus, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center, to women on Mondays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Tuesdays and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m.

The college spokesman, Robert Mitchell, would not describe how the decision was reached, but various students said a small group of Muslim women undergraduates living in the Leverett House dormitory had asked for the change.

The group of women felt that workout clothes violated the Muslim prescription that both sexes wear appropriate dress in shared environments. So they asked the dormitory to set aside its minigyms for women a few hours each week. The request eventually made its way to the Harvard College Women's Center and it was decided that the Quadrangle center, which Mitchell called the college's least-used athletic facility, would be reserved for women at certain times.

He said the change was an experiment that would be evaluated in June.
The second controversy occurred after the adhan, or call to prayer, was once again broadcast across Harvard Yard at noon from the steps of the Widener Library for several days in late February. The broadcast was part of Islam Awareness Week, sponsored by the Muslim student club, the Harvard Islamic Society.

On March 13, an op-ed article by three graduate students denounced the practice, which has been going on for several years. They wrote that while pluralism was fine, the adhan espouses Muslim intolerance toward other faiths by stating that the Prophet Muhammad is the messenger of God. Calling it proselytizing, the op-ed article said, "The adhan, it seems, is the exception to Harvard's unspoken rule of religious tolerance and respect."

The arguments over both issues boiled down to whether Harvard was being admirably tolerant or was disrupting the lives of the majority to placate a vocal minority.
Rauda Tellawi, a senior who veils her hair, said that during the animated arguments about the gym hours that unrolled on her dorm's in-house chat room, it was noted that even some men felt intimidated by the presence of women in the gym if they were, say, not bench-pressing as much as a buddy. Tellawi said she habitually left the gym if men were hovering nearby while she ran or did sit-ups.

"Even if you have loose clothing on, they are going to see things that we are not supposed to let them see," she said. "Islam doesn't encourage you to physically lie down in front of men."

Tellawi did not consider it discriminatory to set aside some hours at the gym for women. Instead, she viewed it as a healthy accommodation. She noted that students who follow kosher eating rules have a separate area in her dining hall and said that some many non-Muslim women supported the separate gym hours.

The new system has been criticized for not attracting enough women to warrant separate hours, and several students said perhaps only 15 people use the center during peak periods at night, despite the fact that it offered its own locker rooms, squash and basketball courts, weights and aerobic machines.

Nicholas Wells, a junior who used to work out in the morning, said he thought the change was "unfair to men and inconvenient for women." While he was all for supporting Muslim women, he said there had to be a more practical solution whereby Quad residents did not lose access to their main gym.

A junior, Lucy Caldwell, echoed those arguments. She criticized the women-only hours as too drastic an accommodation to make for a religious minority, dismissing the idea that many non-Muslim women supported it.

When word of the new gym hours became public, Harvard was attacked on blogs for being a bastion of liberalism run amok.

As to the call to prayer, Muslim students said the adhan was a basic statement of their creed and had nothing to do with denying other faiths. The debate focused mostly on whether Muslims were getting a right denied to followers of other religions.

One student wrote in the comments section of The Crimson's Web site that Harvard Yard was not a comparative religion class, while another said that if students could romp there naked and urinate on the statue of John Harvard, surely forbearance toward other cultures was warranted.

Many students seemed oblivious to either issue, saying they were preoccupied with midterm examinations.

Taha Abdul-Basser, the Muslim chaplain at Harvard, said both episodes were indicative of the growing number of Muslims in the United States.

"There are some people who are just not comfortable that Muslims, by virtue of the change of demographics, are going to become more and more visible," he said.

Adhan

(أَذَان) is the Islamic call to prayer, recited by the muezzin. The root of the word is ʼḏn "to permit", and another derivative of this word is uḏun, meaning "ear." Adhan is called out by the muezzin from a minaret of a mosque five times a day summoning Muslims for fard (mandatory) salah (prayers). There is a second call known as iqama that summons Muslims to line up for the beginning of the prayers.

Note - Please not that Allah is the name used for the word God. When there is a sentence that there is no lord except Allah - i) It is simply stating that the creator of all of us, called God is the one we are grateful to and ii) "no lord" except Allah does not negate other names of God.

Adhan can be easily a Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, Bahai, Jain, Sikh, Jewish, Wicca or Jewish call to prayer. Except the acknowledgement that Muhammad is the prophet of God, all other stuff can be used by any one.

Text (Sunni)
Recital Arabic Transliteration Translation

4x الله اكبر Allah Akbar
Allah is The Greatest*

2x اشهد ان لا اله الا الله Ash-hadu an lā ilāha illallāh
I bear witness that there is no lord except Allah

2x اشهد ان محمدا رسول الله Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasūlullāh I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

2x حي على الصلاة Hayya 'alas-salāt Make haste towards prayer

2x حي على الفلاح Hayya 'alal-falāh Make haste towards welfare [success]

2x الله اكبر Allah u akbar Allah is greatest

1x لا اله الا الله Lā ilāha illallāh There is no lord except Allah

* Followers of the Maliki madhab say this line twice instead of four times.
** The line "Prayer is better than sleep" is used only for the first prayers of the day at dawn (fajr Prayer; Salat al-fajr).

Text (Shi'a)
Recital Arabic Transliteration Translation

4x الله اكبر Allah u Akbar Allah is the Greatest

2x اشهد ان لا اله الا الله Ash-hadu allā ilāha illallāh

I bear witness that there is no lord except Allah

2x اشهد ان محمدا رسول الله Ash-hadu anna Muhammadan rasūlullāh I bear witness that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah

2x حي على الصلاة Hayya 'alas-salāt Make haste towards prayer

2x حي على الفلاح Hayya 'alal-falāh Make haste towards welfare

2x حي علی خير العمل Hayya 'alā Khair al-'amal Make haste towards the best thing

2x الله اكبر Allah u Akbar Allah is the Greatest

2x لا اله الا الله Lā ilāha illallāh There is no Lord except Allah

According to Shi'a scholars, "Ashhadu ana Alian waliullah" ("I testify that Ali is the associate of Allah") is not a part of Adhan and Iqamah but it is recommended (Mustahabb) to say that.[1]


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